Angelogy, the Study of Angels
by James T. Bartsch
Demonology (Fallen Angels)
7 And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8 and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. (Revelation 12:7-8)
Introduction: "Angel" is a transliteration (hence, a non-translation) of the Greek word aggelos (32). Aggelos means simply "messenger." In some respects it is unfortunate that the Bible translators did not translate the word, for English readers who do not know Greek are largely unaware that God's angels are simply God's messengers. This fact informs us that God dearly loves to communicate. It is no accident that His own Son appeared, in the Old Testament as "The Messenger (malak, 4397, Angel) of Yahweh" (LORD) (e.g., Gen. 16:7-14), and in the NT as the Message (Word - logos, 3056) of God (John 1:1-3, 14).
When aggelos appears in the NT, the context must identify which messenger is in view. For example, Paul speaks of an "angel of God" (Gal. 4:14), of an "angel from heaven" (Gal. 1:8), and of "chosen angels" (1 Tim. 5:21). John speaks of "holy angels" (Rev. 14:10). There are, moreover, human messengers (aggeloi, plural). John the Baptist is identified as a messenger (aggelos) of God (Mark 1:1-4). John the Baptist had his own messengers (aggeloi) (Luke 7:24).
There is, however, a whole, separate classification of angels. These are angels of Satan, God's arch-adversary. Satan is often identified in the book of Revelation as a Dragon (Rev. 12:3-4, 7, 9, 13, 16-17; 13:2, 4, 11; 16:13; 20:2), further identified as the Serpent of old (Rev. 20:2), "who is the devil and Satan." God created Satan originally as a good angel, evidently of the classification of cherub (Ezek. 28:14, 16). But, through pride, he sinned (Ezek. 28:12-19) and revolted against God (Isa. 14:12-19). In the cryptic symbolism of the Apocalypse, Satan evidently seduced a third of the angels of heaven to revolt with him against God (Rev. 12:3-4). Those angels who revolted with Satan were the non-elect angels (1 Tim. 5:21). We call these evil, rebellious angels "fallen angels."
This brief study deals with the evidence concerning fallen angels as revealed in the New Testament, supplemented occasionally by references to the Old Testament. Every Scripture passage identified in bold font (with blue URL link) contains the Greek word aggelos or its plural, aggeloi.
Matthew 25:41. “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
Satan has his own messengers (angels) who revolted with him against God. These angels were created by God as holy angels (Rev. 14:10). But God did not choose them as His own (1 Tim. 5:21). Therefore they eventually revolted against Him after Satan had deceived them (Rev. 12:3-4). This revolt against God took place at some undated time in the past before Satan appeared on earth to tempt Eve (Gen. 3:1-7). God has prepared a place of eternal torment to punish all fallen angels. He evidently prepared this place of eternal fire before man sinned against God. But in the end, all humans who do not submit to God and His Messiah in faith will eventually be deposited into that same eternal fire (Matt. 25:41). For an understanding of why those on Jesus' left are accursed, see "Judgment of Gentiles by Jesus in His World Court." Preliminarily, and sadly, I might add, it seems to be true that all of God's rational creatures whom He does not choose eventually turn against Him. Return to Index.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
This passage does not really discuss fallen angels, except in the sense that Satan is himself a fallen angel. I infer, at the close of this section, that fallen angels behave just as their leader.
Paul spoke of certain men who might wish to lead the Corinthians astray doctrinally (2 Cor. 11:4). These presented themselves as having authority equal to that of Paul and his associates (2 Cor. 11:12). Paul called them "false apostles" who used deceit in presenting themselves as Christ's "sent ones" (2 Cor. 11:13). It was no surprise that they should do since "even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light", in other words, as one of God's holy angels (2 Cor. 11:14). Satan is, of course, "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Thus Satan is actually an angel of darkness, not of light. So it should be no surprise that his human followers will portray themselves "as servants of righteousness" (2 Cor. 11:15). Their end will be "the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). Though this was not Paul's point, it is equally true that Satan's angelic servants (also known as fallen angels, demons, or unclean spirits), also disguise themselves as angels of light. Return to Index.
2 Corinthians 12:7. "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!"
Technically speaking, this verse, like 2 Cor. 11:14, does not belong in a discussion of fallen angels. However, lexically, it does. The phrase "messenger of Satan" is actually "aggelos of Satan." Paul was greatly used of God inasmuch as he received a great many revelations. To keep him humble there was given to him (apparently by God), a messenger ("angel") of Satan to torment him. This is not meant to be understood as a fallen angel, but, more likely, as some sort of physical disability. There are those who speculate that Paul had some sort of difficulty with his eyes, and that difficulty was his "thorn in the flesh." This, of course, cannot be proven. Return to Index.
1 Peter 3:22. "...Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him." It was through Jesus' death and resurrection that God subjugated (hupotasso, 5293) to Him angels (aggelos, 32), authorities (exousia, 1849), and powers (dunamis, 1411). All three of these words refer to different levels of angelic beings, whether they be good or evil. Various combinations of these and other words are found in other Scriptures (Rom. 8:38 [angels - aggelos -32; principalities - arche - 746] ; Eph. 3:10 [rulers - arche - 746; authorities - exousia - 1849]; Eph. 6:12 [rulers - arche - 746; powers - exousia - 1849]; 1 Pet. 3:22 [angels - aggelos - 32; authorities - exousia - 1849; powers - dunamis - 1411]). In Ephesians 6:12, all the references to angelic beings are cast as evil angels against whom Christians battle. In addition to the terms mentioned, Paul also said we Christians battle "against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Return to Index.
2 Peter 2:4. "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;" This is a cryptic passage difficult to interpret. It contains more than one problem, not the least of which is the fact that the aorist participle tartaroo (5020), translated "cast them into hell", occurs only here in the NT. Let us make several observations:
First, there are angels (aggelos, 32) who "sinned" (missed the mark) (hamartano, 264). Hamartano is an aorist participle ("having sinned"). NASB's translation "when they sinned" correctly conveys the notion that there was a point in past time when these angels sinned. One might think that Peter was referring to the time when angels fell, following Satan in revolting against God. But that theory does not seem to fit Peter's subsequent statements.
Second, God did not spare these angels who sinned at a point in time. Their penalty, rather than being spared, was that God - literally, "into pits of darkness having tartaro-oed (5020) them." I.e., "into pits of darkness God cast them into Tartarus." Tartarus is "the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews" (Thayer and Smith lexicon entry, quoted in Studylight.org 5020 entry). However, neither Thayer and Smith's interpretation nor the translation of the NASB editors seems to fit completely the evidence here, nor in the rest of the NT. Let us just say for the moment, that whatever these angels did, it was serious enough that they warranted a special restriction. They, unlike Satan himself (Job 1:6-7; 2:1-2) or other demons / unclean spirits (Luke 8:26-33), are not free to roam the earth to tempt and torment humans. They have been "tartaro-oed" in pits of darkness (in an undisclosed location).
We should note here that Peter did not say these angels had been cast into Tartarus. That noun is not used anywhere in the NT. Rather he used the verb "to tartaro-o" (5020), but used it as an aorist (point action in past time) participle. To what was Peter referring? The place into which these angels were cast was evidently not Hades (86) (Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14), nor was it geena (1067) (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6), nor was it the lake of fire and sulfur (Rev. 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8).
So how do we identify these "pits of darkness (zophos, 2217)" into which these angels have been "tartaro-oed"? My best guess is that Peter was talking about the "abyss" (abussos, 12) (Luke 8:31; Rom. 10:7; Rev. 9:1-2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3). Notice that the demons in Luke 8:31 were begging Jesus not to send them into the abyss. They preferred to live within humans, but being consigned to live within mindless swine was better than being cast into the abyss! Notice also that Satan himself will be temporarily confined in the abyss for 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-3).
Third, these angels God "committed" or, perhaps better, "delivered over" (paradidomi, 3860) (aorist tense - at a time in the past); moreover, they are presently being reserved for judgment (krisis, 2920). At some future time they will be judged for their sin which was unusual enough to confine them in pits of darkness, where they presently await future awful judgment. What was it that these angels did that was so terrible that they, unlike their fellows, could not be permitted to roam the earth until their final judgment? I believe that Jude 1:6-7 gives us substantial clues. Return to Index.
Jude 1:6-7. 6And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
First, there are a group of angels "who did not keep their own domain" - i.e. their own (arche, 746 - beginning) original situation. Rather, "they abandoned their proper (idios, 2398) abode (oiketerion, 3613)." In other words, they abandoned the dwelling place or realm in which they were originally created. What does this mean? Let us keep reading.In what way did these angels "not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode?" We are not left to wonder. Jude tells us what they did in Jude 1:7.
Second, this same group of angels He (the Lord - see Jude 1:5) "has kept in eternal bonds under darkness." "Darkness" (zophos, 2217) reminds us of the terrible plight of the angels whom God did not spare in 2 Peter 2:4.
Third, these angels God "has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day." "Judgment" is krisis (2920). Again, this sounds very much like the doom of the angels in 2 Peter 2:4, who are presently being reserved for judgment (krisis, 2920).
"Just as" translates hos (5613), a subordinating, adverbial conjunction modifying the main verb of Jude 1:7, "are exhibited" (prokeimai, 4295). Jude's point is that, just as the angels in Jude 1:6 have been "kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day," so the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah "are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7).
But Jude leaves little to the imagination. He made another, rather graphic comparison between the angels of Jude 1:6 and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Jude 1:7. He continued, "since they (the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and vicinity) in the same way as these (the angels of Jude 1:6 1 ) indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh." Jude stated that both the angels and the men of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah "indulged in gross immorality" (ekporneuo, 1608) and that both went after strange (heteros, 2087) flesh. The word heteros means "another of a different kind" rather than "another of the same kind." Jude referred to the horrible incident recorded in Genesis 19:1-11. Instead of pursuing sexual relations of the normal kind, with women, the men of Sodom, in a coordinated fashion, viciously and persistently attempted to rape Lot's two male guests (whom they assumed to be mortal men). In so doing they pursued "other flesh" of an entirely different kind than that for which God designed them by nature and by anatomy. It is not difficult to decipher Jude's Gen. 19 allusion. But in what way did angels duplicate the abomination of the men of Sodom?
The answer to that question, I believe is found in a passage difficult to understand, Genesis 6:1-4. The passage reads as follows:
1Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, 2that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. 3Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.
It is not my purpose here to exegete all of Genesis 6:1-4, which has a number of terms difficult to interpret. Nevertheless, one issue needs to be resolved, and that is the identity of the "sons of God" (bene Elohim). The term "sons of God" is used twice in this passage (Gen. 6:2, 4). The action of these "sons of God" did not sit well with God at all. He said He had virtually reached the end of His patience with mankind. Yet he would extend a grace period of 120 years (before he judged them). That judgment was catastrophic. God destroyed the whole world with water including all but eight members of the human race! Whatever these "sons of God" did, it was so terrible that God virtually destroyed the human race.
The term "sons of God" is used only three other times in the OT, and all of them in Job. In two of those instances, it clearly refers to angels. We read in Job 1:6, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them." Job 2:1 reads, "Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD." In both instances, angels appeared before God to give an account of themselves. Satan, the chief fallen angel, is also required to give an accounting of his activities, which he proceeded to do. The term "sons of God" clearly refers to angels, apparently indiscriminate as to whether they are presently serving God or not. All angels were "sons of God" by creation. Non-elect angels, however, rebelled against God.
The third instance is recorded in Job 38:7. It refers to God's brilliant and scintillating creation of the earth "When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy." There again, most likely, "sons of God" also refers to angels.
I would suggest that the three occurrences of "sons of God" in Job as referring to angels govern the meaning of "sons of God" in Genesis 6:2, 4. Apparently what happened was that certain fallen angels lusted after human women and consorted with them. This was Satan's attempt to corrupt utterly the human race.
If it be argued that angels cannot cohabit with women, I offer, in response, that Satan did not find it beyond his abilities to inhabit a serpent and successfully seduce Eve, albeit in a non-sexual way (Gen. 3:1-5). If it be argued that angels cannot cohabit with women because of Jesus' statement in Matthew 22:30, I would respond by saying that He spoke of the angels of heaven, not the angels of Satan. Of course the elect angels of God would never do such a thing. But these "sons of God" were apparently fallen angels and not only could lower themselves to debase the human race, but indeed did so.
Clearly, Jude referred to a group of angels that went after strange flesh in the same manner that the homosexuals of Sodom did.
The ironic thing is that in Genesis 6:1-4, apparently fallen angels desired to cohabit with human women and succeeded in doing so. In Genesis 19:1-11 fallen men attempted to cohabit with holy angels and did not succeed.
My conclusion, therefore, is that a certain group of fallen angels did something so heinous that, even though God did not immediately place them in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), He also could not permit them to roam the earth as do Satan and other demons who did not join with them. Instead God apparently confined these particular angels in the abyss. There they are "kept in pits of darkness, reserved for judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4). Since they did not keep their keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode," God has kept them "in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6).
Let us remember that something so terrible happened to the human race and resulted in such utter depravity (Gen. 6:5-18) that God felt compelled to wipe out virtually all of humanity! That something terrible was, I believe, Satan's attempted corruption of the human race through certain demons who cohabited with "the daughters of men.". Return to Index.
Revelation 9:11. "They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon." Revelation 9:1-11 records what happened when a fifth angel blew his trumpet, and a painful, but not fatal plague afflicted all of mankind who did not possess the seal of God on their foreheads.
When the fifth angel sounded, John saw a star from heaven which had fallen to earth (Rev. 9:1). In the symbolism of Revelation, this star most likely refers to a once good angel who had joined in Satan's rebellion against God and had been cast down to earth (see Rev. 12:3-4). To this angel was given the key to the "bottomless pit." More literally, he was given the key to the pit (NIV = "shaft") (phrear, 5421) of the abyss (abussos, 12). With the key, he proceeded to open the pit (phrear) of the abyss (abussos) (Rev. 9:2).
Out of the pit (phrear) there came smoke that darkened the sky. From the smoke there emerged (demonic) locusts that had power to torment for five months men who did not possess the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev. 9:3-6). John graphically described the appearance of these (demonic) locusts (Rev. 9:7-10). Then he stated (Rev. 9:11) that these (demonic) locusts had a king over them -- the angel (aggelos, 32) of the abyss (abussos, 12), whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon ("Destroyer"), and whose name in Greek is Apollyon ("Destroyer").
From this passage we learn that there are fallen angels, or demons presently confined in the pit or shaft (phrear) of the abyss (abussos). These particular demons have the appearance of unusual-looking locusts with a painful sting. They also have a king who rules over them. He is the angel (aggelos) of the abyss (abussos). That fact helps us interpret these beings who have the appearance of unusual locusts that sting like scorpions as, in fact, demonic locusts. At the right time, during the Tribulation period, these demonic locusts will be released to afflict with excruciating pain men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Men will long for death to escape the pain, but will be unable to die.
We learn that, just as there are different ranks of angels, apparently with leaders (such as Michael, Rev. 12:7), so there appear to be different levels of authority in the demon world. Even confined in the pit of the abyss, there is a fallen angel who is king. His name is Abaddon / Apollyon. Perhaps the abyss has more than one compartment or pit or region where different demons are confined for different reasons. Return to Index.
Revelation 9:14-15. 14"one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind."
By the time the sixth angel blows his trumpet during the Tribulation period, there will be four angels who will have been bound at the great river Euphrates (Rev. 9:13-14). Are they bound there now? We do not know. When will they be bound there? We do not know. Why will they have been bound there? We do not know. But the fact that they are bound (deo, 1210) leads us to believe these are fallen angels, not God's angels who are free to serve Him. The sixth angel, upon being instructed by a voice from the horns of the altar of God in heaven, will release these four angels from the bonds that restrict them. The Euphrates River originates in Eastern Turkey and flows through Syria and Iraq before it finally merges with the Tigris River and then empties into the Persian Gulf (which Arabs much prefer to call the Arabian Gulf). The Euphrates River is a significant boundary that will one day form the Northeastern border of the land of Israel (Gen. 15:18; Ex. 23:21; Deut. 1:7; 11:24; Josh. 1:4; 1 Chron. 18:3; 2 Chron. 9:26; Micah 7:12). It would appear, therefore, that the unloosing of these four fallen angels may have something to do with unleashing demonic forces in that region of the world upon all of mankind. (Note, for example, the future power of a Babylon-based religion that temporarily wields enormous political influence as recorded in Rev. 17. Babylon is situated on the Euphrates River.)
We learn in Rev. 9:15 that these fallen angels had been prepared for a precise moment in history. This moment John identified as "the hour and day and month and year." The purpose for their release was in order that they might kill , literally, "the third of the men." Already a fourth of humanity has been killed by the breaking of the fourth seal (Rev. 6:7-8). That amounts to 1.75 billion of the earth's 7 billion people. That left 5.25 billion. Now an additional 1.75 billion of the remainder are killed (see also 9:18), leaving now only half of the earth's population, or 3.5 billion people left alive. The carnage in the Tribulation period will be unimaginable!
We are told in Rev. 9:16 that the unloosing of the four angels resulted in the appearance of armies of horsemen numbered at 200 million! This number is to be taken literally, for John wrote, "I heard the number of them." Here is how John described the armies he saw (Rev. 9:17-19):
17And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. 18A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
These do not appear to be ordinary horses. With heads that look like lions’ heads, with deadly fire, smoke, and brimstone (sulfur) issuing from their mouths, and with tails that look like serpents with heads that can harm people (Rev. 9:19), these appear to be demonic horses and riders. The language seems too specific to apply easily to modern-day warfare. If, for example, John had meant to describe modern day tanks with rear-firing machine guns as well as forward-firing cannons, he would never have called them horses ridden by soldiers. He would have at least attempted to describe the vehicles as having wheels around which the tank tracks traveled (see, for example, Ezekiel’s description of swiveling wheels in Ezekiel 1:15-21).
Sadly, those humans who are escape the onslaught of these demonic horses and riders will desist neither from their demon worship nor from their idolatry, nor from their murders nor from their sorceries nor from their immorality nor from their thefts (Rev. 9:20-21).
We learn, therefore, that, in the future, demonic forces will be unleashed at a precise time in the future upon the world from the region of the Euphrates River. These demonic forces will kill a third of the survivors upon the earth. Despite this carnage, people will not repent of their evil. Return to Index.
Revelation 12:7-9. 7"And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, 8and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." Return to Index.
1 "These" in Jude 1:7 refers back to the angels of Jude 1:6. See Bible.org's translation of Jude 1:7, and note in particular footnote 37, which reads, "tn “Angels” is not in the Greek text; but the masculine demonstrative pronoun most likely refers back to the angels of Jude 1:6." Return to Text.
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Prepared by James T. Bartsch
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Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Published Originally February 6, 2012
Updated May 21, 2016; January 25, 2020